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25 Oct 2012

This is my last Penarth Times column as the Member of Parliament for Cardiff South and Penarth. After 25 years as an MP that does give me a strange feeling. But when I became an MP I missed my challenging work with young people and the roles as a magistrate and local councillor in which I had invested a lot of hard work and energy in the previous 15 years. It’s the same now: I will miss the House of Commons but I am moving on to meet a new challenge and to do something that I regard as essential to the public good.
18 Oct 2012

On Sunday, dozens of senior scientists with expertise in wildlife disease wrote a public letter to The Observer, expressing their strong objection to the Government’s badger cull about to begin in England. They say that they “believe the complexities of TB transmission mean that licensed culling risks increasing TB rather than reducing it.” This is something that we’ve already agonised over in Wales.
11 Oct 2012

Any democracy needs checks and balances to hold the government to account. Those constitutional checks are provided in different ways in different countries. America has three pillars of government – Congress, President and Judiciary. Congress passes laws, the President can veto them, his decision can be over-ridden and the Supreme Court interprets these laws. In Britain, the Government creates the laws, but they have to be agreed by both Commons and Lords and then “signed off” by the Queen with the Norman-French words “La reine le vault” (“the Queen wills it”). In Germany the Bundestag is directly elected but the Bundesrat (second chamber) is made up of representatives of the Lande – the regional governments from every part of the country. Outside those constitutional structures is the “free press” with the duty of holding them all to account in the public’s interest. It’s because they failed in that duty that we had the Leveson Inquiry
04 Oct 2012

It's traditional at this time of year for media commentators to bemoan the death of the old-style party conferences, as if there was a golden era when open and constructive debate was the order of the day, when great speeches were made by great orators and when a single philosophy was shared by everyone and when nobody tried to manage the media coverage. Sorry, there never was such a time. Each of the parties is a coalition of people and organisations with some views held in common and widely divergent views on a range of other topics. That isn't bad, because it's healthy to test and challenge each other's views.
27 Sep 2012

In the last week, ‘sorry’ seems to no longer be the hardest word. Nick Clegg apologised before the Liberal Democrat conference for pledging to protect tuition fees before the general election and before eventually voting with the Conservative consensus to triple them. And on Monday morning, Andrew Mitchell reiterated his written apology, saying ‘sorry’ for allegedly swearing at police officers outside Downing Street and calling them ‘morons’ and ‘plebs’. This was reported by a national newspaper whose reports have to be taken with a pinch of salt, particularly in light of revelations by the Leveson inquiry.
20 Sep 2012

Headlines often suggest that listening to the voice of victims means becoming punitive and even Draconian. Because the worst offences lead to an understandable scream of pain from the bereaved, there is an impression that the only response of victims is anger and a demand for retribution. In my experience that is far from the truth: victims in general are rational and the demand that “something must be done” is accompanied by a belief that the “something” must be sensible and effective. You only have to think of the parents of Stephen Lawrence or the wife of Phillip Lawrence, and many others who have turned a horrific experience into a lifelong commitment to constructive work on preventing the same thing happening to others. Of course, there is a need to keep some of the worst offenders locked up for life so that they can't repeat their actions. But the vast majority of offenders are at a much lower end of the scale and the big question is how to make sure they don't reoffend.
13 Sep 2012

This week in Parliament, I was proud to publish a long-awaited study which points the way forward for the UK to tackle eCrime and make the internet safer for everyone. Cardiff University’s academics, Professor Michael Levi and Dr. Matthew Williams, explain how we can tackle crime online or ‘eCrime’ as it’s usually known. Over the last couple of decades, the internet has grown and developed far more rapidly than anyone could have imagined; and so has its use by criminals. What we need is not a plan for how to ‘control’ or ‘run’ the internet, but how to understand, manage and frustrate the way that bad people behave online.
06 Sep 2012

The fact that the House of Commons has been back in action this week has provided lots of material for the lobby journalists, including James Landale. On the BBC’s Westminster Hour on Sunday, he cheekily referred to MPs returning from their “long recess”. Well, the reporters may have had a long holiday but most MPs have had a short break and a lot of time working on constituency matters. It’s a time for a refreshed start, for hard work and lots of local meetings and casework. Now we’re back the times they are a-changing in terms of the sittings hours, but it’s simply not possible to reconcile the inevitable difficulties that arise when 650 MPs commute from all over the country. When I arrived in 1987, Parliament started at 2:30pm on four days a week and often sat through the night – frequently until 7am but sometimes through to 2pm the following day. Until the House adjourns it is still ‘yesterday’, and if it sits past 2:30pm, it doesn’t ‘become today’ and you have to wait for tomo
23 Aug 2012

Last week, for the umpteenth time, the media has rediscovered the serious and important question of whether a Severn tidal barrage should be built with Lavernock as the most likely Welsh landfall. A tidal barrage would harness tidal energy as a source of renewable energy; and it’s often overlooked in debates about solar or wind energy. One of the main advantages is that tides are more predictable and reliable than the sun or wind, as they are reliant on gravitational pull, but the Severn Estuary is rare in having sufficiently powerful tides for it to be worth it.
16 Aug 2012

While we're still in August, it's worth reflecting on the two big events that have affected us greatly. London (and Cardiff) played host to the Olympic Games, and the Vale of Glamorgan played host to the National Eisteddfod. So what's the connection between the two? Well, in terms of direct experience many of us found ourselves returning from the sun and the wind of Llandow to catch up on a feast of athletics, celebrating excellent results for both Team GB and the Welsh contingent within it. Truthfully, on some days we returned from the driving rain of Llandow to clean mud off our shoes and trousers, but the principle is the same. Both events offered a celebration of talent and competitions in which some won and some lost. Both involved a renewed sense of community, and an awful lot of eating and drinking and chatting.
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